Did you have a good Thanksgiving holiday weekend? I did.
We had a small group of family and friends over for the first time in three years for turkey day. I cooked and, gotta say, it was one of those meals where everything went right.
The bird cooked perfectly and I barely basted it. The roasted sweet potatoes with apple, honey and maple syrup, was fantastic. Cornbread stuffing made separately worked really well. Roasted brussels sprouts felt perfect. Even the green salad with pomegranate seeds was a standout, not to mention the homemade corn bread I made in my spare time, as well as the excellent cranberry sauce my sister-in-law made.
It wasn’t all good news, though.
There were 22 people killed and 44 injured in seven mass shootings over Thanksgiving week. That’s an average of one a day, for those who are now too overwhelmed or saddened or stumped to think about it.
Of course, I thought about it. But there was food to buy, cooking to get done and timing and plating to figure out, culminating with me watching some of the new Broadway musicals on NBC’s Thanksgiving Day parade (Note: Ugh, don’t bother. And yes we’re speaking to you, Some Like it Hot!) on that all too treacherous morning of the big meal.
Well, treacherous is a relative term. Obviously.
But it’s not like the five that died and dozens more who were injured four days prior at that beloved Colorado Springs LGBTQ+ party spot, Club Q, thought a few hours of their partying prior to Thanksgiving was particularly dangerous either.
And even though I’ve never actually been inside a Wal-Mart (Note: Yeah, that’s correct), it’s safe to imagine that the six human beings blown to bits by a disgruntled employee would never have imagined in their wildest dreams that being in that location would prove to be the most treacherous place on earth for them two days later.
The great intellectual and writer, the late Susan Sontag, published a devastating short story, The Way We Live Now, back in the mid-eighties. It described in snippets of conversation that felt casual and gossipy but were anything but, the new normal that the AIDS epidemic in NYC had wrought.
Life would never return to the naive everyday-ness that we had previously dared to intermittently consider to be treacherous. In fact, most of what we considered pre mid-eighties treacherousness would be considered quaint, and then some, from then there on.
Nothing about Ms. Sontag’s prose was melodramatic, studied or even particularly special at the time. But that’s what made it unique. She was merely reporting the conversational facts of deterioration, disease and death as if they were an itemized prep list of thoughts, tasks and snarky tidbits one could encounter before, during and after a typical Thanksgiving holiday dinner.
In essence, she was telling us we would grow used to anything if we had to because even with the grotesquely awful there were plans to be executed, events to attend to and meals certainly to be made. What was going on outside was awful but, well, we’d just have to modify. Amid the medicines, hospital visits and funeral plans, the rest of us would still get hungry. Right? After all, there was nothing we could do about it, anyway.
Having lived through the dreadful beginning and middle of AIDS as death sentence in the eighties and nineties, I can’t help but feel a familiarity of those times to the way we live now – in 2022.
It’s not that gun proliferation and violence is a new virus in our midst, the way AIDS was back then. It’s that it has begun to metastasize in a scarily virulent way.
There have so far been 606 mass shootings in the US in 2022, as opposed to 610 in total in 2020 and 690 last year (an all-time high). We could still be #1 by the time this year is out but no matter where we fall, or fail, we will certainly be competitive with the worst of the worst before 2023 rings in.
There are now more guns that people in the US. (Note: 393 million guns to be exact), the majority of which are owned by white men, who are more than likely to identify as rural and Republican.
No, I’m not racial profiling. Here is an exhaustive story from CNN in June.
And a front-page story in the NY Times this weekend casually chronicled the latest trend in a new kind of non-verbal public discourse – the armed demonstrator.
Sure, it’s our right to carry a weapon if we have a permit. But in June in the US we had an average of one armed demonstration per day. What this means is that packin’ right wing protestors, sometimes led by the Proud Boys or Oath Keeper members, routinely show up at public events in places like Phoenix or Nashville carrying sidearms, long guns or other such paraphernalia because…they can.
If it scares you, well maybe you should be scared. Or not. Our freedom, your choice. Or, well, perhaps it’s both.
It’s worth noting lots of these events also seem to happen around abortion clinics, or gatherings sponsored by the LGBTQ community. Sometimes they’re even near places where people vote. Or where certain other minority groups choose to congregate.
This is not surprising since 10 states have extremely lax laws regarding firearms, allowing pretty much any gun owner the legal right to carry a weapon in a crowd, a government building or even restaurant serving Thanksgiving dinner.
So if you found yourself in Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia or Washington over the holiday and made it out alive and unscathed, consider yourself one lucky dude, dudette or non-binary celebrant.
I myself felt relatively safe in Los Angeles this week, despite all you maybe have heard about our uptick in crime. They might have guns, sure, but they’re not free to carry them anywhere. At least not by law.
Besides, they’re mostly looking for Rolex watches and I was never big on expensive jewelry.
But that’s the way I, and we, live now. At least here.
Who knows what tomorrow will bring?
Because it was exactly six months prior to Thanksgiving that 19 small children and two teachers were killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, TX and the only thing that changed were the lives of their relatives and friends.